First United Methodist Church
What's Your Superpower? Luke 9:28-36
February 27, 2022
Rev. Dr. Byron W. Kaiser
Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.
Suddenly they saw two men, Moses, and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.
Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.
Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and, in those days, told no one any of the things they had seen.
What is Your Superpower?
If you are over 40 years old, this may seem like an odd question. The question came to my attention last year as I was driving out of Ft. Wayne toward Columbia City and a saying on a billboard proposed this question, “What is your superpower?” Emphasis on the “Your”. I believe the billboard referenced a campaign in support of persons born with an extra chromosome. Since then, I have seen the billboard advertisement in other places along US 30. The message opened my eyes to the question.
My sister told me about a devotion she did for the Anderson soccer league in which she used the question, “What is your superpower?” to get children to think about their uniqueness and the specialness of Jesus. So, I began nosing around a little. You may be familiar with the Indeed career-building webpage. Companies use Indeed to recruit talent. People use Indeed to circulate their resumes. The company claims that last year 72% of job interviews generated by online services came from Indeed.
What is one question that Indeed recommends interviewees need to prepare to answer in an interview for any job? You guessed it. “What is your superpower?”
Here are some different superpowers Indeed lists and what the superpower may say about you and your skills:
- Reading minds or experiencing the feelings of others: You value emotional intelligence and understand its importance in the workplace.
- X-ray vision: You know how to analyze situations before making decisions and value attention to detail.
- Shapeshifting: You enjoy handling a variety of tasks and can multitask and change between roles.
- Speed: You have excellent time management skills, value efficiency, and look for ways to improve workplace processes.
- Ability to teleport: You value efficiency, have strong time management skills and can prioritize tasks.
- Time traveling: You understand the importance of reviewing past results to make future decisions.
The Cleverism website says this about your superpower, “Get to know what you are truly good at. The things you can do very well without much struggle. Basically, get to know your strengths. Your superpower is the ability which makes you succeed in business or in school. It is what enables you to outperform others in a game or exam.”
Of course, my curiosity got a hold of me. You may discover any attribute of your personality simply by going online and taking a test. So, I went online and took a test to discover my superpower. Get ready for my result:
“You are an adventurer. Flying is the perfect superpower for you because it would feed your curiosity and passion. Your real-life superpower is being a flexible and charming artist. You are always ready to explore and learn new things no matter what.”
The description continues to tell me what my superpower suit of clothing would look like complete with color coordination and fabric types.
Pray with me.
“Let the words of our mouths, and the meditations of our hearts be
acceptable in your sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer.” Amen.
Here we have a story in the Gospel of Luke that seems like a Steven Spielberg movie script or a panel from a Marvel comic. Immediately before this scene, Luke records Jesus sending out the disciples on a missionary journey, Jesus’ presence perplexing Herod, feeding of the five thousand, Peter’s confession of Jesus being the Christ, Jesus defining what the being the Christ means, all in twenty-seven verses. It is now eight days after these events. Time to rest.
We do not need to wait long to discover Jesus’ superpower. The verses describing the Transfiguration of Jesus are embedded in prayer. Prayer shows up twice (verses 28, 29) right at the beginning. In the very moment that Jesus is praying, the appearance of both his face and clothing changes.
Commune with God.
Luke frequently centers epiphanies of Jesus’ connection with God in prayer. In chapter 3 verse 21, while Jesus was praying after being baptized God speaks to him. After Jesus heals a leper, Jesus withdraws to pray (5:16). Before choosing the twelve disciples, Jesus withdraws to a mountain to pray (6:12). Before Peter reveals that Jesus is the Christ of God, Jesus is alone – praying (9:18).
Sarah Henrich, Professor Emerita of New Testament, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, “Prayer, communion with God, is very often associated with the coming of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ life, beginning with baptism. It is the presence of God’s Holy Spirit that empowers Jesus for healing, for the calling of the Twelve, for enduring the temptations, and for speaking truth.”
“By prayer that same brilliant spirit of God shines on and in Jesus and Moses and Elijah as they gather to speak of Jesus’ coming exodus (verse 31).”
“All of Scripture, The Law and the Prophets, Moses and Elijah respectively, is enlisted as pointing to the future passage through death to glory of God’s anointed one.” “God’s own faithfulness is borne out in the trustworthiness of Scripture (Luke 24:27), witnessing as it does to the suffering of the Messiah that precedes his glory.” All of this bathed in prayer.
God self-contains power so as not to hurt people. Imagine Superman not wanting to harm innocent people and lowering a “cone” of kryptonite around himself.
Because Jesus had invited three others to be in prayer with him on the mountain, these others witnessed the glory of God in Jesus. These eyewitnesses were vital to the handing on of Jesus’ story in a reliable way. Because “glory” is a visible aspect of God’s holiness and majesty, eyewitnesses were vital to handing on this experience of Jesus’ tangible glory, a glory puzzling and yet hope-giving.
The eyewitnesses see the result of Jesus’ prayers. The passage turns on the witnesses seeing the appearance of Jesus’ face, the gleaming clothing, the call to “behold,” the appearance of Moses and Elijah, the “seeing” of Jesus’ glory and the two
men (verse 32).
The witnesses experience the visible cloud which acts like a kryptonite shield that once protected Israel from the sight of God or from the sound of God’s voice.
God protects people from God with a cloud of thick darkness. Exodus 20: 18-21,
“When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.’ Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.’ Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.”
God resides in a bright cloud that looks like a devouring fire. Exodus 24:15-18, “Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.”
Now that same cloud shielded Peter, James, and John from seeing God. Jesus’ prayers opened the glory of God for Peter, James, and John to witness that they would experience the presence of God like their ancestors at Mt Sinai so many years ago. Luke wants us to know that prayer supercharges Jesus. Jesus’ communion with God makes all things happen. Jesus’ prayers gave Peter, James, and John their mountain top experience with God.
Unlike, the superpowers flying, x-ray vision, laser eyes, invisibility, shapeshifting, prayer power is real and accessible to each of us. Each of us may claim prayer as our superpower.
Jesus has a unique communion with God as the Son of God. You and I are heirs of Jesus. Jesus is our elder brother. As the body of Christ, we have a unique communion with God. The communion with God that opened God’s glory to Peter, James, and John, may open God’s glory to each of us that we may stand on the Mountain of God.
I Thessalonians 5:17 says it simply, “pray without ceasing.” Paul invite us to continually keep communion with God. Paul wants us to practice our superpower 24/7/365. Hear what John Wesley writes, God’s command to “pray without ceasing” is founded on the necessity we have of his grace to preserve the life of God in the soul, which can no more subsist one moment without it, than the body can without air.
Whether we think of; or speak to, God, whether we act or suffer for him, all is prayer, when we have no other object than his love, and the desire of pleasing him.
All that a Christian does, even in eating and sleeping, is prayer, when it is done in simplicity, according to the order of God, without either adding to or diminishing from it by his own choice.
Prayer continues in the desire of the heart, though the understanding be employed on outward things.
In souls filled with love, the desire to please God is a continual prayer.
As the furious hate which the devil bears us is termed the roaring of a lion, so our vehement love may be termed crying after God.
God only requires of his adult children, that their hearts be truly purified, and that they offer him continually the wishes and vows that naturally spring from perfect love. For these desires, being the genuine fruits of love, are the most perfect prayers that can spring from it.
(From A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, as believed and taught by the Reverend Mr. John Wesley, from the year 1725, to the year 1777.)
Practice Your Power
So, the preacher has just found a clever way to remind us to pray, you may be saying.
No, the preacher is telling you that if you are living mundane,
If you are living routine,
If you are living monotonous, If you are living dull,
You are not, have not, practiced your superpower!
When Moses prayed the waters parted.
When Hannah prayed a mighty judge was born. When David prayed people united.
When Elijah prayed rain stopped. When Elijah prayed again, it rained. When Jabez prayed people prospered.
When Paul and Silas prayed prison chains opened, the lame leaped, the blind saw with their eyes.
When Peter prayed, Tabitha lived.
When Jesus prayed, your sins were forgiven.
What will happen when you pray? What will happen when you practice your superpower?
In the words of Paul’s prayer, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
– Romans 15:13